Stories have a way of connecting people across space, time, culture, and beliefs. Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter is a transcendent storyteller. Her work spans more than 60 television and film projects and includes myriad generation-defining and culturally influencing work such as “Do the Right Thing” (1989), “Malcolm X” (1993), “Amistad” (1997), the television reboot of “Roots” (2016), “Selma” (2014), and “Black Panther” (2018), the film for which Carter received the 2019 Academy Award for Costume Design.
Carter will visit Virginia Tech to attend “A Conversation with Ruth E. Carter” on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. in the Moss Arts Center. The event is part of a weeklong series celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. at Virginia Tech. The event is free and open to the public.
Carter has described her work as “an expression of Afrofuturism, using imagination and technology to create costumes that tell stories about our culture.” She defines Afrofuturism as applying “technology and intertwining it with imagination, self-expression, and an entrepreneurial spirit, promoting a philosophy for Black Americans, Africans, and Indigenous people to believe and create without the limiting construct of slavery and colonialism.”
Carter’s work brings this philosophy to life by weaving culture, history, politics, race, technology, and education together in her costume pieces.
As the first African American to win in the costume design category, Carter’s work has moved audiences all over the world. Reflecting on this impact, Tyechia Thompson, event moderator and assistant professor in the Department of English, spoke about the influence of Carter’s work on their personal journey and Black culture.
“She has really used stories to share our history, the Black college experience and aesthetic, Black royalty, many aspects of our culture all while educating audiences across time periods,” Thompson said.
Carter’s use of vibrant color and textured, nuanced, and unique statement pieces gives audiences the opportunity to reflect on the complexity of identity as they continue to learn and grow with changing times. Her work is influential in that it upholds and tells stories that bring together people of diverse backgrounds.